(CCSLQ-2) We Read To Know

We Read To Know

This is part of an occasional series (currently it’s weekly) exploring quotations attributed to C.S. Lewis that are questionable for one reason or another. There is an “at a glance” page HERE to quickly see what has been posted so far in this series. Also, if you haven’t already, be sure to read the INTRODUCTION to this series. 

We Read

“We read to know that we are not alone.”

Stating that C.S. Lewis loved to read is like announcing dogs bark. It’s a given! You cannot, however, take for granted that the above quotation is from Lewis. The fact that there are at least two variations to this quotation should raise your suspicion. I’ve seen one variation that stated “We read to discover that we are not alone” and then as recently as August 9, 2015, a Christian-based review site called Movieguide shared another variation on their Twitter account, stating “We read books to know that we are not alone.”

Some of you may reply and say you can just close your eyes and SEE Lewis saying this. I can too, that’s because Anthony Hopkins says it as a fictionalize Lewis in the movie Shadowlands (1993).

It occurs just before the ninety minute mark in the film as Hopkins is recalling it as a statement from a student’s father. Near the end of the movie Lewis, oops, I mean, Hopkins says it again to a new student. However, it is not found in any of the published writings of Lewis. If fact, we have the screenwriter of the motion picture, William Nicholson, stating on his website that he made up the line himself.

What’s funny to me is that if you watch the movie, (and as I’ve already noted above) it doesn’t even claim Lewis came up with the line. At the end of the movie he does repeat the words, without giving credit to the student’s father that he borrowed it from. It’s a great line to encourage reading books, but the real Lewis never said it.


“If you don’t read good books you will read bad ones.”
from Learning in War-Time in The Weight of Glory


“Those who read poetry to improve their minds will never improve their minds by reading poetry.”
from Lilies That Fester in The World’s Last Night


“If one were looking for a man who could not read Virgil though his father could, he might be found more easily in the twentieth century than in the fifth.”
from De Descriptione Temporum in Selected Literary Essays


“The only use of selections is to deter those readers who will never appreciate the original, and thus to save them from wasting their time on it, and to send all the others on to the original as quickly as possible.”
from Edmund Spenser, 1552–99 in Studies in Medieval and Renaissance Literature


The next quote examined is:

“Experience that most brutal of teachers. But you learn, my God do you learn.”

Related Articles:

What Lewis NEVER Wrote  (Podcast)

Not Quite Lewis – Podcast Version

Not Quite Lewis – Questionable Lewisian Quotations (Conf. Paper)

Updated 9/12/2015

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